Time to craft a new vision for Red Wing Port AuthorityThis community's economic engine needs an overhaul. Red Wing Shoe Co.'s decision to cut its second shift rams the point home: Major manufacturing no longer drives this market.
By: R-E Editorial Board, The Republican Eagle
This community's economic engine needs an overhaul. Red Wing Shoe Co.'s decision to cut its second shift rams the point home: Major manufacturing no longer drives this market.
Unfortunately, growing evidence suggests the city has neither the qualified mechanics nor the innovative engineers we need to replace the motor.
The Red Wing Port Authority is charged with promoting economic and industrial development, but the current agency leadership's biggest "development" has been racking up $1.2 million in debt.
That this deficit just came to light raises questions about oversight and responsibility. That the Port Authority's solution includes slashing marketing efforts illustrates how ineffective the agency's leadership has become.
There's no excuse for not addressing the deficit earlier and with complete openness.
There's no excuse for playing the blame game, either. "It's the economy." "It's River Bluffs Development Park." "It started with 9/11." "It's the assessments."
Don't insult us. What the community deserves instead of excuses is honest accountability and a real plan of action.
The Port Authority keeps working off an old development model, attempting to land that big employer. Where the community finds itself today is partially a result of failing to embrace change.
Let's not forget that the Port Authority Board has balked for months, indeed years, at selling all or part of the former Central Research Laboratory property. Board members have made no secret that they're holding out for a big manufacturer.
While they waited, another manufacturer -- and one that bears this community's name, no less — made cuts and now bigger cuts.
Do they get the message now?
In two weeks, Red Wing City Council will vote on two port-related matters. One, the council will consider giving the port $200,000 toward its debt. Two, the council will consider approving the port's request to raise its property tax levy to the maximum.
We suspect a majority of council members will support both because administrators will tell them there's no a choice.
In fact, there are long-term choices to be made.
One choice is to tie any money to performance. No more "business as usual" at the Port Authority or City Hall. Some people may have to go.
Another choice is bailing out the port only after implementing new oversight mechanisms and addressing the agency's purpose. The port must start embracing those who have the entrepreneurial spirit, which in this community has led to the likes of Capital Safety and Hydratight. Little ideas can grow into big businesses.
Council members already have chosen to support the mayor's creation of a new "blue ribbon" task force. Now they must embrace it and its findings in 2010 — including investigations into the Port Authority — and then act on those findings.
True leaders acknowledge the facts, admit their limitations, make tough decisions and, in doing so, also create a vision that will lead to growth, success and new opportunity. While City Council and Port Authority struggle with the monetary issues, we hope they change their vision.
Red Wing can no longer count on big manufacturing to drive the economy, and we can't afford a Port Authority that appears to be along for the ride.